Safety and Revitalization of Entrance to Peru and Peru State College Main Goals of Park Avenue Improvements
Approximately 40 Peru area residents learned about proposed Park Avenue Improvements during a Feb. 7 town hall meeting at Peru City Hall.
The proposal involves widening, paving with concrete, and installing curbs and gutters from Casey’s General Store as you enter the Peru city limits to the Little Red Schoolhouse on the Peru State College (PSC) campus.
Started Exploring Project More Than Two Years Ago
Officials began exploring the project in November 2010, said Lisa Beethe, community development specialist, Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD). The project will also require Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) officials to relinquish the section of state highway to Peru city officials.
At a town hall meeting in November 2011, Peru residents discussed community needs and selected their top priorities. Revitalization of Park Avenue curbs and sidewalks and installing additional lighting were the top priority, Beethe said.
She said a needs assessment survey of Peru residents will be conducted in March and April.
The highway spur from Casey’s General Store to the stop sign at Fifth Street is currently owned by the state. Plans are for Peru city officials to sign an agreement with state representatives to relinquish that portion of the highway to the city. The City of Peru will receive $345,000 from the State of Nebraska upon transfer of the highway.
It [Park Avenue] has been a state highway for a long time, and because of budget constraints, there are a lot of limitations to what NDOR officials can do, said Tom Goodbarn, NDOR District 1 engineer.
Work which state officials have been limited to maintenance, including milling and sealing, he said.
“Improvements that Peru State College and the City of Peru would like to make are outside and beyond the scope of what we can do. There’s a limit on what you can do as long as it’s a state highway section. It’s prudent to give the section to Peru city officials,” Goodbarn said.
Affect to Peru’s Budget Due to State’s Relinquishment
The transfer of the highway would add an additional street to Peru’s one- and six-year street plan. City officials would overlay the street about every 10 years with funds received from state officials for maintenance, Beethe said.
Because city officials maintain the street after snowfalls, no additional funds are anticipated needed in that capacity.
Cindy Moran, Peru city clerk, said city officials will set aside a new Park Avenue account, with monthly transfer of an undetermined amount to have funds available for an eventual street overlay.
Proposal Costs About $1.1 Million
Dr. Dan Hanson, PSC president, said a group began meeting with a goal to improve safety and attractiveness, and providing a more professional entrance into Peru. Besides Hanson, the group included then-Peru Mayor Lesley Ryan; Cindy Moran; Kevin Burnison, SENDD community development specialist and Peru State College Foundation representatives. The group contracted with JEO for an engineering study, from which several options were presented. The study, funded by the college, was done in September 2011.
The current proposal calls for a two-foot wide concrete curb and gutter on both sides of the street, a 10-foot wide concrete sidewalk with landscaping on the west side transitioning to the east side of Neal Street, and with additional lighting, benches and trash receptacles. No street repaving is planned at this time.
“The goal is to get pedestrians off the street at night while they’re going to Casey’s,” Dr. Hanson said.
The project’s preliminary budget is about $1,067,781. Planned funding sources include: $10,000 from the City of Peru; the council is applying for a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG); $232,781 capital improvement funds through Peru State, and the PSC Foundation would provide the rest of the funding, possibly in the $450,000 to $500,000 range. Nemaha County Commissioners have discussed providing in-kind labor.
Rod Vandeberg of Falls City, District 1 highway commissioner and member of the PSC Foundation board, volunteered to help with the fundraising process. Vandeberg said pledges from eight of the nine board members totaled $270,000, which Vandeberg called “a great commitment.” Hanson thanked Vandeberg for his efforts on the project.
“We should take care of Park Avenue. It’s a dangerous street. The grant should help us with the additional project. When (city officials) take over the street, we will get $345,000. The college will put out most of the funds. There will be no street assessments or bond required. Hopefully, these improvements will help our town and make it a better place to live,” said Peru Mayor Jay Moran.
Hanson said benefits to Peru State College include improved pedestrian and vehicle safety; providing a more attractive entrance to the college which may be a positive factor in enrollment, and generating momentum for additional college and city projects. Besides enrollment, the project could positively impact future fundraising.
“Success and activity can breed more success and activity. Personally, the biggest priority is the safety of the people who drive and walk on that street. That’s why we have to get it done,” Vandeberg said.
“Peru State College has a wonderful foundation, which is laying the groundwork for major grants down the road. They’re doing a great job. Dr. Hanson is doing a great job,” Vandeberg added.
The main benefit to city residents is the enhancement of the roadway with curbs and gutter and storm sewer improvements, with the addition of sidewalks to reduce risk to pedestrians and motorists, Mayor Jay Moran said.
Drainage improvements to eliminate pooling of water on the street and erosion control of embankments are another city benefit. Funding received from NDOR will help the City of Peru with other projects. The improvements would also continue to build momentum for PSC, and be more attractive to new businesses and residents, the mayor concluded.
Officials Respond to Questions from Attendees
Questions asked by attendees included: affect on the present city right of way; how heavy equipment on the road would affect it; how Park Avenue residents would have access to their driveways; concerns about mailboxes along the route; plans for back road improvements and a time frame for the project.
Evan Wickersham of JEO Consulting Group said it was not anticipated that the project would affect the present city right of way. If that would be the case, it would affect the west side of the street, which is college property, he said.
Wickersham added that he did not foresee the presence of construction equipment affecting the road, there is already traffic on the road with projects at the college, including renovation of the Oak Bowl football stadium.
Contractors are typically required to make provisions for temporary entrances, Wickersham said. Concerns about mailboxes have not been addressed in the design, he said.
Most work on the project would be outside the driving lanes. Wickersham said he did not foresee closing the road for any length of time during the day, but one lane of traffic would be possible. The road would be open to traffic at the end of the work day, he said.
Regarding the project’s time frame, Beethe said the CDBG application is not due until July 1, and officials will not hear if they will receive the grant until the fall of 2013. SENDD staff are facilitating the grant application and guiding everyone involved through the project.
“The grant is pivotal to the whole project. We need it. We believe we can raise funds if we get the grant,” Vandeberg and Hanson said.
Burnison said the earliest the project would be let for bids is the spring of 2014.
A concern was presented about a guardrail, because vehicles have driven off the road. Wickersham said the curb and gutter will help keep motorists in the driving lane but officials will consider the issue.
Project officials hoped to communicate with the Nemaha County Commissioners to keep the back entrance road in good shape because of potentially increased traffic.
“If a lot of people say no, we don’t do it. If we can get the people on board, it will be good for Peru. We’re asking you, do you think this is a good idea? We think it is a good thing for Peru,” Mayor Jay Moran concluded.